July 2017


Midlands Engine very much open for business

The Midlands Engine is very much "open for business" - that was the message from the Railtex event held to showcase the region's rail sector to visitors from around the world.

Warwickshire County Council was among the Midlands Engine partners who came together with the DIT, Rail Alliance and Rail Forum to host the major event at the NEC Birmingham.

It was held to highlight the opportunities presented by the fast-evolving landscape of the UK rail sector - with the Midlands the perfect place for businesses to locate to for the benefits of HS2 and the many other rail projects in the pipeline in the next 15 years.

This is a time of great opportunity for businesses in, and connected to, the rail sector - and those in Warwickshire have the expertise and experience to seize those opportunities. The region is a focal point of rail Research & Development with Warwick Manufacturing Group, based at the University of Warwick, and Quinton Rail Technology Centre (at Long Marston) which is the UK’s rail-facility for testing, trialling and product development processes. 

Warwickshire County Council inward investment officer Steph Williams said: " The UK's rail infrastructure is in a prolonged period of investment and that will attract inward investment while HS2 also represents significant infrastructure opportunities and cross-sector working.

"Warwickshire is well-placed to take those opportunities and remain at the forefront of the rail industry after years of sustained investment in training and development which has ensured the next generation of engineers and technicians and that stands.

"We were delighted to be part of the Railtex event which gave us a great chance to promote the county's strengths in rail and explore foreign direct investment opportunities presented by HS2, infrastructure and low carbon developments."

Delegates at Railtex included many representatives from the academic world, trade associations and innovation communities. There were also presentations from organisations making a difference today to the skills and competences of railway workers.

The headline presentation was given by from Gordon Wakeford, managing director of Siemens Transportation (UK) and chairman of the Rail Supply Group. He identified the Midlands Engine supply base as both highly respected for its capabilities and, importantly, exciting in terms of prospects for the future supply of goods products and services to the UK railway and abroad."

With presentations from the Rail Forum East Midlands and others during the two days, the profile of the Midlands Engine was well and truly raised - and it was clear to see that the Midlands Engine is very much open for business.

Meanwhile, Rail Live, the leading trackside event in the UK, returned last month to the QRTC (Quinton Rail Technology Centre) at Long Marston, near Stratford-upon-Avon.

The event attracted thousands of delegates and exhibitors from across the UK, as well as international visitors and all aspects of the rail industry were in focus - from traction & rolling stock, rail plant and infrastructure, electrification and signalling demonstrations to displays of engineering, rail maintenance materials & product development/testing safety, digital products and innovation.

The QRTC is a major rail asset to the county, as one of the few mainline rail linked rail test sites in the UK. It features 2.4km of test track and 20km of rail storage, and hosts a number of specialist rail companies. These include Viva Rail, who have developed a new commuter shuttle train based on former London Underground rolling stock, known as the D-Train. The new train ran for the first time with passengers, operating a one-off shuttle between Honeybourne Station and the Long Marston Site.

This is an exciting time for the rail industry in the UK with £100bn of spending promised by government by 2020, and major rail infrastructure projects promised including HS2 and Crossrail 2. Across the country, local and regional schemes similar to Midlands Connect and the Coventry & Warwickshire NUCKLE are also in development, and up to 5,500 new rail carriages are promised.

This unprecedented recent level of investment provides significant opportunities for Coventry & Warwickshire businesses to access the rail supply chain. It is also an opportunity to attract new rail led inward investment to Warwickshire.

The inward investment service Invest in Warwickshire, has been working with colleagues at the DIT (Department for International Trade) Investment Hub in Birmingham, and LEP area colleagues from across the Midlands Engine area, to research the local and Midlands rail supply and develop marketing materials to promote the Midlands Rail industry offer to potential investors. 

The Midlands Engine Opportunities in Rail brochure can be found here, on the Midlands Engine website.


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